The Real Reason Why Clowns Are So Downright Creepy

Have you ever stopped to wonder why some people (this writer included) are pretty much terrified of clowns, while others find them absolutely adorable?  Well, it seems that there is a reason why such fear exists, and you may very well be surprised.

First and foremost, we can not blame it on Stephen King.  Sure, his character IT will literally scare the bajeebies out of the bravest person, but it is not his fault for those who suffer from coulrophobia—the fear of clowns.

Image: The Independent

Clowns have been around since way before IT made an appearance, and so has coulrophobia.  But what is it about clowns that trigger this type of fear, to begin with?

Steven Scholzman, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School explained that:

“…the fear is much more deep-seated, related to one of our most primal instincts—pattern recognition.”

Pattern recognition is a very basic reaction.  We can see things that we know are recognizable, but there is something just enough off about it that we instinctively take caution.  That is why children can recognize something or someone as familiar, but not quite in the same way as they are seeing.

Image: Bloomberg

An example would be when we see a pug and a German shepherd.  We know for a fact they are both dogs, but they do not look alike.  In the instance of clowns, they manipulate the way in which we expect a human face to look, and they play with our natural instinct.

A clown is a human—two arms, two legs, and a face.  When it comes to getting an idea of what another individual is thinking, we as humans rely on reading facial expressions.  However, in the case of clowns, they are smiling all the time, and one can not get a true gauge on what they are thinking.  Hence, the sheer creepiness of the whole situation.